On Thursday the 18th of February, the official release date in France, I went to buy a Surface Book 256 Go / Intel Core i7 and here’s my first feedback.
A nice and soft packaging
The unboxing is a nice experience. The box is quite small and easy to carry and open. The packaging is simple but sufficient, you understand in one second how you are supposed to detach the different elements. I would say that the packaging experience is clearly at the same level than Apple’s.
There’s a blue line all around the box that give this peps that I like on Microsoft products. To me, Microsoft is a colorful brand. Unfortunately, there’s no bright colors directly on the product but I suppose it’s a good choice to induce desire among the general public. Maybe a discreet blue line somewhere on the computer or/and on the stylus for the next version?
I had just started to open the packaging when one of my colleague (an Apple geek) said to me “Are there no stickers?”. Well well that’s true, no stickers of the Microsoft logo in the box but I’m not sure I would have taken one to stick it on my car or my suitcase… Even though he was just teasing me it made me think that I find that apple sticker attitude quite weird in fact.
Love at first sight and drawing experience
The design of the Surface Book is just amazing. It’s an evidence that to arrive at this result the designers and engineers have spent a long time on the prototyping phase to finalize all the details. By the way, you can find some information about the prototyping phase on this page.
What surprised me at first was the proportions of the two parts (screen, base), as the screen can be transformed into a tablet it’s quite thick and the base is really thin (for a base). In fact, the result is that the screen part is about 7 mm thick (0,27 inch) and the base is about 8 mm (0,31 inch).
The stylus is the same than the Surface Pro 4 so you can also add to your basket the Pen Tip Kit with a 2H, H, B, HB. I didn’t test them for the moment but it can be interesting to try that with Photoshop.
The stylus is quite light with its 22 grams but heavier than the Wacom stylus for the Intuos Pen & Touch that is only 13 grams. The stylus is less large than the Wacom, its diameter is about 1.08 cm (0,042 inch) while the Intuos stylus is 1.27 cm (0,05 inch). Even if it’s not a big difference it’s quite appreciable for small hands like mine!
The details are well finished and the keyboard is pleasant to use though I don’t like its backlighting. In fact, I find it not strong enough and the keys are not lisible enough. My desk is just under several strong neon lights maybe this is the reason. So most of the time I just turn off the backlight, what is really easy as you can do this action directly on the keyboard.
The screen is beautiful with its resolution of 3000 x 2000 and 267ppp. Clearly enough for my use. Microsoft apparently reused the PixelSense technology that they had developed for their second tactile table few years ago. It’s a multitouch screen. By the way, when you want to move something on your screen you use two fingers. I use it to move in my workplane on Illustrator because it’s quicker than with the mouse.
So… my boss is a geek and when he saw my Surface Book he took it and turned it around, took the stylus and clicked once to launch One Note and start drawing. I like this feature.
The experience with OneNote is really smooth and optimized. There are no lags. I didn’t use it a lot yet but the tests I did where really convincing. The “click use” of the stylus is nice too:
• One click: open OneNote
• Two clicks: screenshot
Oh My God! the OCR experience…
What I really appreciate with the Surface Book are the finishes. One of those nice finishes is in the different states of the (digital) keyboard depending on how you’re using the computer. When you transform it in tablet PC (keeping the base), if you open the digital keyboard it’s a “special” keyboard that opens by default (see below). This is the kind of small details that make the difference.
The writing experience is amazing. I tried to write in different ways to test it but it’s really amazing how it works well. I’m really fond of the Ink experience. As I’m a Microsoft Emerging Experience MVP I had the chance to meet the Ink team on last November and I would now like to tell them just “Wow!”.
Bye bye Kensington
Sob… I have one issue at work as I’ve got the most beautiful computer of my floor 🙂 I prefer not leaving it on my desk unattended. So I tried to look for a way to secure it with a Kensington but I didn’t find. Apparently you should use a Surface Dock Station but I don’t see how you can enable people of steeling just the tablet (screen). And I’m not buying a 230€ accessory until I’m sure it will secure both parts.
I do not thank Adobe…
I don’t know what is happening to Adobe but since I’m working on Windows 10 it’s as if the experience is not optimized anymore. I’ve got few issues and lags even though I’ve tried it on 4 different computers (all on W10) of different powers and capacities (laptops and desktop computers). As I’m using Adobe since more than 10 years with no problem this is really annoying.
So, about Illustrator there’s one issue using it on the Surface Book. As you might know, the powerful graphic card is in the base so when you launch Illustrator it starts using this card. You maybe know that to transform your Surface Book into a tablet PC you have to press on a key of the keyboard. When you hear a “click” you can turn the screen to start drawing using the full power of the computer. But as I told you, Illustrator uses the graphic card in the base, so you cannot switch in tablet mode without turning of Illustrator (warning screenshot below). Just think to switch in tablet PC mode before starting using it. Same issue with Photoshop.
Windows Hello 🙂
Wow! This is a small feature but when you colleagues says “Oh, your computer recognized you? you don’t need to type anything?” Well… This is sooo great. The Surface Book is using a depth camera called Windows Hello face-authentication camera. Before that I was using the finger print recognition with my last computer and it was nice but the face recognition is really cool feature.